Salon of Beauty, 2011
Photo: Nash Baker ©

Ana Serrano
Salon of Beauty
29 September - 11 December 2011

A first-generation Mexican-American who was born and lives in Los Angeles, artist Ana Serrano is largely inspired by her everyday life in Los Angeles’ diverse, urban neighborhoods. Much of her work bears references to those in low socioeconomic positions, with a particular interest in the customs, beliefs, informal economies, fashion, and architecture within these communities.

Serrano preserves the otherwise ephemeral nature of a city constantly being made and unmade by its residents and gives what might be taken for granted a new kind of importance. Over the past few years, Serrano has made a series of miniature, cardboard sculptures of stores and homes representative of her experiences in Los Angeles’ working class neighborhoods. Traveling throughout the city, she photographs parts of the urban landscape that most of us ignore: such as decorative cast-iron “burglar bars” on a window, a dilapidated but brightly painted door, barbed wire, or the hand-painted signage and illustrations on storefronts. Back at her studio, she uses her photographs, cardboard, and paint to create her own stylized versions (not exact replicas) of humble icons of urban life, such as a liquor store, a carpet shop, a bakery, or a simple home.

Serrano saw the title, Salon of Beauty, hand-painted on the side of a small beauty salon. She was struck by the phrase’s slightly awkward, yet poetic quality. Later she realized it was a literal translation of the Spanish phrase, Salón De Belleza, which normally would be translated into English as “Beauty Salon.” The circumstances of how she found the phrase and the word “beauty” resonated perfectly for Serrano in her hope to point out what she calls “untraditional beauty.”

Far from a reproduction of a Los Angeles block, Salon of Beauty is Serrano’s imaginary version of a neighborhood where the smallest details have been plucked away from the maelstrom of the city and playfully mixed together. As she explains, “I wanted to pull out everything that I liked in the city and then condense it.” When visitors enter the gallery, they are confronted by a home’s green façade with stacked white bricks and a brown fence below two windows with crisscrossed trim on top of horizontal stripes. The façade could almost read as an abstract field of form, line, color, and pattern. As visitors continue to move along the installation’s u-shaped path, they pass by a “98 Cents” store with colorful typography, a mint green home with a fenced-in porch, a hot pink bakery, and a check cashing store, among many other homes and businesses along the route, some with obvious functions, others more ambiguous - and all laboriously made from cardboard and paint. Serrano designed Salon of Beauty for the Rice Gallery space as a kind of “detour” that gallery visitors can embark on as they enter either of the gallery’s doors. Serrano noticed that the foyer space in front of the gallery was a passageway for students and faculty between the two sides of the building, and she sees Salon of Beauty as a momentary departure from our everyday routine. Serrano offers us a chance to see our urban world, whether it’s Los Angeles or Houston, through new eyes.


Ana Serrano was born in Los Angeles, California where she still lives and works. In 2008, she received a BFA with honors from the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California. Since then she has been an active participant in Los Angeles area exhibitions, including Giant Robot Biennale 2, Japanese American National Museum (2009); Papershapers, Scion Installation Space, Culver City (2009), and East of Eden, Los Angeles Municipal Gallery, Hollywood, (2008). Her work was featured in Lamono Magazine (2010), American Style Magazine (2009), and STEP Inside Design (2009), as well as the books Juxtapoz: Handmade (Berkeley: Gingko Press, 2009) and Beyond Architecture: Imaginary Buildings and Fictional Cities (Berlin: Gestalten, 2009). Serrano has created sets, props, illustrations, and animations for clients including Christian Louboutin and Sephora. Visit the artist’s website at


Rice Gallery exhibitions and programs receive major support from Rice Gallery Patrons and Members, The Brown Foundation, Inc., and the Kilgore Endowment. The Leslie and Brad Bucher Artist Residency Endowment supports Ana Serrano’s residency at Rice Gallery. Exhibition catalogues are funded in part by the Robert J. Card, M.D. and Karol Kreymer Catalogue Endowment. The gallery receives partial operating support from the City of Houston. El Tiempo Cantina, KUHF-FM, Republic Tequila, and Saint Arnold Brewing Company provide in-kind support.

Salon of Beauty is supported in part by Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research.